Posts Tagged ‘2003’

Game 67: F-Zero GX

Posted: July 7, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 573/1001 according to the list

Genre: Racing
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Amusement Vision Ltd.
Publisher: Nintendo

So here we are. It’s been some time since we covered F-Zero X (although on 1001 games, the gap is still small). And so we return to the high-speed futuristic racing of the F-Zero world.

The gameplay stays the same, the game looks a bit better and a number of new modes and options have been added. We decided we’d check it out next.

Our Thoughts

Right, where do we start on this? The game has improved, that much is clear, but it very much still stuck to the existing formula.

There are a number of new gaming modes which have been added in order to facilitate the franchise’s successful transition to the Gamecube. As expected from most racing games released from sixth generation onwards F-Zero GX now comes with a story mode. It’s an interesting addition, if fairly tough to handle. They are basically quest missions where, rather than racing against 30 other racers, you have missions and such to deal with – gather capsules, win a one-on-one race against someone on a boulder-filled track, and that’s just the first few. In a way they feel more like tacked on mini games rather than something which fleshes out the main game but it’s a fun diversion nonetheless.

The thing that the Story Mode demonstrates most, however, is how the developers have well and truly ramped up the difficulty level from the last outing. Most games have a curve; this is more like a climbing wall.  While the lower difficulty levels are doable, the games still feel like a number of drivers get perfect AI all the time, which shows in the story mode especially. It could be that we haven’t discovered the tricks yet, but they make the game harder. It showed how much experience mattered here – Peter being better at this, while this was the first time playing for me, showed there was a difference there. This is the only niggle that we had with this game. Otherwise it is amazing. It’s the only game that I ever rented multiple times from my local Blockbuster. I was unable to afford the forty quid then (or now to be perfectly honest). 

The main things that we loved about F-Zero X were the soundtrack, graphics and how successful the game was in making you feel as if you were driving at 1000 km/hr… F-Zero GX has not only improved on this but also makes the old game feel crude and sluggish. Not only this but also they added a Garage Mode which, at the time, was the glistening cherry on top. The sad fact is that about 30% of the amazingness of this function has been lost by the passage of technology.

Back on the games original release there was also F-Zero AX – an arcade version which saw you play the game in a pod reminiscent of the cars within the title. What you could with F-Zero GX‘s Garage Mode is bring your customised car with you on a memory card and then play with it in the arcade. I mean is it just me or is that just brilliant. It makes for a cool additional feature that would’ve added some extra time to playing the game – not to mention make you want to play the arcade version more often.

The last big thing worth mentioning a bit further is the graphics. Last time we mentioned these being very sparse in order to allow the game to keep up its frame-rate. This time, however, the environments look stunning. You race around through large cities, deserts and at one point a Möbius strip in a forest. The sandworms you pass in the desert level just add to the strangeness of the game. I think it’s because for the first time in F-Zero history the console was not stretched to breaking point by the needs of the game.

Final Thoughts

Technology has caught up with this series, and you can tell. All 30 racers are there in all relevant modes, the scenery is gorgeous and far more interactive, and the opportunities for customization are legion. If anything, you get the feeling this is what they wanted the F-Zero series to be like from the start. It’s a shame we haven’t seen a successor yet, although it makes you wonder what they could do to take the series further, other than adding more tracks.

It’s hard, it’s beautiful and it’s fast. And that last bit still matters most – you want that experience of really racing around the track. If that’s the main thing you want from your racing game, then F-Zero GX is the game for you.

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Game 60: Donkey Konga

Posted: June 9, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 539/1001 according to the list

Genre: Music
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Nintendo

Of all the Nintendo franchises to receive a music-based game I bet there are people who would have bet good money that it would have fallen on The Legend Of Zelda to produce some sort of outing with an ocarina peripheral. After all it does heavily feature music and it DID later spin-off a Crossbow Training shooting game.

In the end though the task fell to Donkey Kong provide the means for Nintendo to mass-market a home-console music game periphery drawing inspiration from the successful Taiko no Tatsujin arcade games.

Our Thoughts

To quote a Harry Hill running joke from a while ago: “I like to play my bongos in the morning”. I wondered how long it would be until you made that joke. We had to start somewhere.

So Donkey Konga it is; another game with its own very special controller, and one that took us a while to get. Thankfully it was not too expensive for us to purchase; especially when compared with other games on this list. So expensive that there is a doubt that we’ll ever even get to play it. Steel Battalion, where are you with the proper controller? Any help there is appreciated. Luckily these Donkey Konga bongos will be used again at a later date making it eight quid well spent… unlike the £80 we’re likely to have to shell out to buy the (kick-ass) cockpit controller for Steel Battalion.

An interesting thing to note is how this could be the first music game on the list equipped with a specialist controller meaning it outdates the Hero music franchise. Let’s hope the drums survive to that point, considering our enthusiastic playing. It could be that this is the first game, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Sure, it’s quite simple, but the challenge isn’t in using twenty different buttons, it’s in trying to keep up with the song.

In order to play along you bang the drums together, on their own or clap. On a personal note I found it difficult to transition between a clap and the banging of both bongos. It helped when later I discovered that you can slap the right side of the controller and it is registered as a slap. The slap instead of the clap also allows for greater playing stamina since it prevents your hands from getting red raw from clapping. It’s a bit of an awkward mechanic that didn’t fit in as well, although I can see why they’d want it as an extra option. On its own is not too bad, but if you’re not careful your hand starts hurting. You need to hold back. But it’s the only annoying transition. The bongos themselves work well, simple but fun.

They also look fantastic. The cartoon-like wood finish does make like something direct from the game… unlike the awkward chainsaw controller released alongside Resident Evil 4 which was annoying as hell.  Yeah, they fit in the game. The sole issue here is that they feel flimsy. You’re tempted to hit them hard, but then they immediately feel like they’re about to break. The fact that the still work perfectly despite obviously being second-hand shows just how sturdy they are. Also there is no real need to bang then too hard during gameplay as it makes it far harder to transition. Absolutely, despite expecting worse, it seems like we’ll be bongoing for quite a bit longer. And once we are through they will be lovingly stored next to the controllers we have purchased from DJ and Band Hero. The latter of which I hope I will we will get to use for this project soon.

Now, a music game stands or falls with the music they put in, and being the first of its kind (seemingly), this should set a benchmark. And if we can say one thing, it’s that there is a lot of variation in the songs. Yes, but they don’t always work. Take That’s ‘Back For Good’ really had no place in a bongo-based music game. No. On the other hand, Blink 182 is the last band I’d expect to see here, yet ‘All The Small Things’ worked well. It might have helped, though, that I know the song well, giving me a personal best record. Other songs worked surprisingly well too. ‘Lady Marmalade’, ’99 Red Balloons’, ‘Impression That I Get’ and a batch of Nintendo theme songs all were fun to play with. Something to note is that the song list varied depended on the region it was released in. In fact, those of us in the PAL region actually received the fewest number of songs from all three regions. It’s a good enough list anyway, although it’s a shame.

Another thing to note here are the graphics. Obviously, a music game doesn’t need them as much, and they’re not outstanding, but one thing they are is fun. Birds, monkeys and rhinos dance around at the bottom of the screen and balloons fly up if you do well. I thought that happy little chappy was an elephant. Apologies. They’re both grey. He’s still dancing! Very cute too! Who wouldn’t dance to ‘Louie Louie’ played on the bongos? Nobody, that’s who!

In other words, we’ll play our bongos again. Just not in the morning. I prefer to lie in a bit longer.

Final Thoughts

At some point we will be using these bongos to play Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. It will be very interesting to see how this specialist controller works on a conventional platform game compared to a rhythm based one.

Game 11: Bookworm

Posted: December 22, 2010 by mulholland in Games
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Game 540/1001 according to the list

Genre: Puzzle
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Popcap
Publisher: Popcap

This was not a game we actively scheduled this early on (since we rely on a mixture of a random number generator and personal choice) but it came out of a rather slow evening when I had a fancying for playing Scrabble. I never know why I go through these Scrabble phases… I start playing it and then get bored within 10 minutes.

Bookworm is very similar to Scrabble in many ways, you try to make as long a word as possible out of the tiles provided…. however there are flaming tiles involved which change the game somewhat.

Our Playthrough

This is the victim of some late-night playing resulting in both of us feeling rather tired and disorientated the next day… totally worth it.

Our Thoughts

Bookworm. So you have a worm, a grid of letters, and you have to make words using the letters and impress the worm. And if you do not impress the worm then he tries to set the library on fire with the flaming letters… Apparently, then, it’s an evil worm that hates words, and you stop him by making words. Then again he does give the opportunity to play with golden and diamond letters… so he’s an evil worm with a love of bling.
In other words, there’s no story and what happens doesn’t make much sense, but the game is good fun, even though it did not seem to be our kind of game. Well, like I mentioned before, Scrabble is as dull as dishwater. And English isn’t my first language. Yet you can swear like a pro, even if you can not use swearwords in the game. I’ve learned the important words. And yeah, that’s the one vocabulary part that surprised us. But I guess it makes sense, if it included all members of the swearing rainbow then you would have to have an age restriction present. ‘Crap’, though? To some people ‘hell’ is incredibly offensive.
Anyway, it looks pretty, the gameplay is good, but it’s a puzzlegame – while we can explain the gameplay, and say it gets addictive – the last game took over an hour and that was ended simply because we had to write this bit. You can easily play this for hours on end… as long as your eyes don’t go square first. And you can stand all the Y’s and J’s that start filling up the bottom of the board

Final Thoughts

This is a nice word-based puzzle game, simple, yet challenging, it looks good and is a lot of fun to play – like a lot of the Popcap games. And the trial is available for free, so no reason not to try it.

Game 3: Viewtiful Joe

Posted: November 28, 2010 by mulholland in Games
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Game 547/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Platformer
Platform: Gamecube, Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

This is the first of a number of Capcom games that we are going to cover. The reason that we chose this one is not because of a random number generator (as is the process with most other games) but because I actually borrowed Viewtiful Joe off of a friend of mine some years ago and only found it in my drawer last week… oops. Still, a few more weeks before I return it won’t make a difference now (sorry Sam, I hope you didn’t buy a new copy)

The story behind this is as old as time. Geek takes girlfriend to cinema, girlfriend is kidnapped by a villain from the film, geek follows girlfriend into film and is given superheroic powers so he can rescue her… wait, what?

It borrows heavily from the tradition of a 2D side-scroller with the addition of cel-shaded 3D graphics as well as the ability to slow-down and speed-up time in order to achieve better combos and generally kick ass more “viewtifully”.

Our Playthrough

Well, there’s not a lot of choice here, the game is straightforward: We played through it for five hours, which dropped us about two thirds of the way through. We went for the easier (‘kids’) difficulty. I wanted to. I couldn’t deal with more. We’ll discuss that later.

Since I had played this before this was left to Jeroen to play his way through… unless it got too difficult and he got upset, then I kicked some serious robot ass. In my defense, my reflexes aren’t as good, I’m not as trained in these sort of games… and I sort of might have been dealing with a mild concussion (all too get out of peeling the potatoes) while playing it which affected a major part of my mood and such. And I’m just not as good as these games.

Our Thoughts

I would like to reiterate that this game was not stolen. That’s your opinion.

Anyway, one interesting game; very fast paced, lots of action, very colourful, and with very good visuals. It makes you feel like you’re in a movie.

It is also fairly difficult for newcomers and they are never afraid to up the ante to make sure that it doesn’t feel like a walkover. That’s very true as well, and I admit I ran up against it relatively soon – the first level is doable, after that it goes up rapidly. It’s a difficulty that is enhanced by the infrequent save points and the large amount of boss-fight strategies that need to be devised.

That’s probably what I ran up against the most. A lot of replaying of certain sections is required, and you have little time to work out strategies without having to go back through half the level because you’re out of lives. It’s a call-back to how older games went, and I suppose shows how gamers are spoiled these days with more frequent saving (helped by the gaming systems making it easier and faster to save).

You do get inundated by grunts but they are easy enough to defeat. Once you figure out the strategy for defeating them …which isn’t that hard. Usually not, no. Especially since they let you know in advance whether the majority of them are about to hit you in the head or the legs allowing you to counter attack. Which can be too late if you don’t have great reflexes which is where I flourish and you come unstuck.

I also have to admit it doesn’t help I kept hitting the rather large jump button when just trying to punch or kick. One thing we haven’t mentioned is the fantastic time effects used for fighting.

Even watching the game being played is a lot of fun due to those cinematic effects. It’s sometimes just fun to jump around whilst in super-slow motion.

You do need to have a will of iron with this game as it will kick you in the shins on many occasions. But if you are happy to get plugging away at puzzles and boss fights this is great. Part of that also requires you to enjoy the game enough that you want to keep trying.

Also, because of the cel-shaded graphics time has been really slow in dating this. It would mostly work now, yeah. And it seems to me that something like the Wiimote could interact quite well with any more sequels. Well it was a critically acclaimed franchise, but the low sales figures have led it to the gaming graveyard.

As so many other games have. But this is certainly a game that could work again a few years down the line, updated, with some new abilities, but the same cinematic gameplay. Replaying this makes me want to check out the Nintendo DS sequel.

Final Thoughts

At times so frustrating that you want to chuck your Gamecube controller at the TV Viewtiful Joe is a fast-paced cel-shaded thrillride. It has well withstood the test of time and is a great way to fight an anthropomorphic shark in slow motion.